Indian lightning strikes 83 deaths in Bihar state

The Bihar Disaster Management Department said the Gopalganj district recorded the highest number of deaths, with 13 people killed. The rest of the deaths were recorded in 22 separate areas across the state.

All deaths were recorded on Thursday. A standard compensation of $ 5,300 has been initiated for all families who have lost loved ones, said Sandeep Kumar, an official with the Bihar Department of Disaster Management.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted that there were “tragic news” of deaths in some districts of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in northern India during heavy rains and lightning. He said state governments were engaged in urgent aid work. “I express my condolences to the families of those who have lost their lives in this disaster,” he added.
Mamata Banerjee, West Bengal’s chief minister, said in a tweet that she was “very disturbed” by the deaths and condolences to the families of the deceased.

Deeply dependent monsoon season economy

India and the South Asian region most frequently have lightning deaths in May and June of each year. According to the Indian National Crime Records Office, there were 2,885 deaths attributed to lightning in 2017 and 2,357 in 2018, the latest year for which data is available.
In comparison, there were 20 deaths attributed to lightning in the US in 2019, according to the National Weather Service.

Deaths in India often occur among farmers, who head outside to prepare their fields just as the monsoon rains arrive. They want to cut it as close as possible to the onset of the rains. For example, if they plant too early it is still hot and the crop will die, but if it is too close to the start they are vulnerable in open fields during thunderstorms.

India’s economy is highly dependent on the monsoon season. Its agriculture depends on the southwest monsoon season from June to September, which accounts for most of the country’s annual rainfall. Much of India’s farmland is not connected to irrigation.

The monsoon rains in India begin in its southern parts, generally in early June. They move north throughout the month, usually covering the entire country in early July.

The start of this year came a little earlier than planned, but it was not particularly unusual. So far in June, rainfall across the country has been approximately 20% above normal, with the highest amounts in central India, according to the Indian Department of Meteorology.

CNN’s Swati Gupta reported from New Delhi and Taylor Ward reported from Atlanta. Emma Reynolds wrote from London.